The paraprofessionals, or teacher aides, who were laid off from Riverside Elementary School District 96 last spring will be getting their jobs back.

Last week the District 96 Board of Education voted unanimously to rehire 29 part-time paraprofessionals and post one part-time paraprofessional position. The 27 paraprofessionals, commonly called parapros, who were laid off in May will be getting their jobs back.

In May, Superintendent Bhavna Sharma-Lewis said she wanted to replace the district’s part-time parapros with full-timers. But when the school board found out it would cost about $88,000 more to use full-time parapros, primarily due to pension contributions and other fringe benefits, the board decided to rehire the parapros on a part-time basis.

“We would have to pay an additional $88,000 in benefits,” said board member Randy Brockway of the cost of hiring full-time parapros. “Some people didn’t like that.”

Brockway said that he was supportive of using full-time parapros as Sharma-Lewis had favored, but the majority of the board didn’t want to spend the money to do that.

Although Sharma-Lewis said in May that replacing part-time parapros with a fewer number of full-time parapros would increase instructional quality and consistency and aid in professional development, Sharma-Lewis didn’t quarrel with the board’s decision to stick with part time parapros.

“On behalf of the staff and leadership team, I am very appreciative that the board of education approved the resources needed to support our students,” said Sharma-Lewis in a comment emailed to the Landmark.

Parapros are used in District 96 to provide support, often in the role of one-to-one aides, for students with special needs and to provide classroom support for teachers.

According to Sharma-Lewis, District 96 will have 49 parapros for the upcoming school year, down one from last year. Twenty-two of those parapros will be full-time employees.

Parapros are paid on an hourly basis. First-year parapros will earn $17.68 an hour during the 2014-15 school year, while fifth-year parapros will make $21.03 an hour.

Search for interim finance chief

In other District 96 news, the school board and administration have decided to hire an interim director of finance and operations to replace Zack Zayed, who is leaving District 96 Aug. 22 to take a job in another district.

District 96 will likely hire a retired school business manager to work for perhaps the entire 2014-15 school year while the district searches for a permanent replacement for Zayed.

If the interim finance director is a retired business manager, he or she will be only able to work for the district on a part-time basis to keep from losing the ability to collect pension benefits. Riverside-Brookfield High School has had a part-time business manager for the last three years.

Sharma-Lewis told the board that she has already spoken to a few retired business managers. Formal interviews will be held next week. She said the goal is to hire someone by the first week of September at the latest.

This fall the district will begin looking for a permanent replacement for Zayed. Many high-level school administrators do not switch districts during the school year, so it is likely that a permanent replacement would not start in District 96 until next July.

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